While the types of paddling you are planning will influence your choice of board shape, your weight and height will also affect the ideal dimensions of the paddle board you will ultimately select.
Many articles stress board volume as an important criterion in selecting a board to support your weight, but for most people it is a secondary consideration. Most inflatable boards on the market today have ample volume for riders up to 200 lbs. If you weigh more than 200 lbs or plan to paddle with a pet or child on the board, you will want to look at boards that will support extra weight and are proportioned for added stability.
Once weight and volume considerations have been addressed, the board dimensions become a matter of the performance characteristics you are looking for. Our article on SUP board sizing goes into detail on this, but there are a few basic principles we can share with you here. The three dimensions of a paddle board each influence specific aspects of performance.
Width is the main determinant of board stability, although thickness plays a role to be discussed below. A wider board will generally be more stable than a shorter one, so if stability is important to you, look for a board in the 34” width range. If you don’t feel the need for above-average stability, a 32” board will do just fine and will tend to paddle a bit faster than a 34” board of the same length and outline shape.
Length most directly affects the speed of a board. Average all-around boards are in the mid-10 ft range, usually around 10’6” or 10’7 long. Boards designed for speed or for covering distances with maximum glide tend to be longer, up to 12’6”.
Thickness of a SUP board is the most neglected dimension that buyers tend to ignore or misunderstand. The lower end of the inflatable SUP industry has gravitated toward boards with 6” thickness. Making a board thicker is the easiest way to increase its rigidity. By increasing thickness, a board made of weaker materials with low inherent rigidity will have adequate rigidity when inflated. However, this added rigidity comes at a cost in terms of stability, as it raises your center of gravity while you are standing on the board. This is why boards at higher price points are often available in 5” thickness, which is better for stability and board feel, and has plenty of rigidity when the right materials are used. For more on this, read this more in depth article on what is the best thickness of an inflatable paddle board , which explains the relationship between board thickness, width, and stability.